Archive for Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Bird Count finds 79 species

January 3, 2008

The Baldwin Bird Club conducted its 66th annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society Dec. 16.

The Christmas Bird Count was established in 1900 as an alternative to the traditional Christmas Day Hunt when people would go out to see how many different birds an individual could shoot in a day. The modern Christmas Bird Count has developed into a very useful tool for gathering bird population data during winter conditions in the United States.

Each count is limited to a circle that is 15 miles in diameter or approximately 176.6 square miles. The Baldwin count circle is centered at the junction of U.S. Highways 56 and 59. There were two counts conducted in Kansas on the first year but the Baldwin count, which was first conducted in 1942 by Ivan and Margaret Boyd and Ray Miller, is the oldest continuous count in the state.

This year there were 12 people divided into seven parties that traveled the roads and fields looking for birds. In addition, there were two people that recorded the number and species of birds that came to their feeders during that day.

Between 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. the group identified 86 species. This is significantly higher than the 10-year average of 79 species. The record high for the Baldwin count was set in 1999 at 89 species.

The total number of individuals recorded this year was 17,094. This is only about 75 percent of the 10-year average of 23,192. The record high for the Baldwin count was set just last year with 52,338 individuals.

For most species this seemed to be a fairly average year. There were no new species seen on the count. There were a few record highs and one unusual species for the count.

One weather event that seemed to have an impact was the late freeze last April that killed most of the flowers of developing nuts on oaks and walnuts. The lack of hackberry and very few cedar fruits, also impacted by the late freeze, may have had an impact on Cedar Waxwings, American Robins and even Eastern Bluebirds. All three species were well below the 10 year average.

The species with the highest number of individuals counted was Red-winged Blackbird with 6,743. A distant second and third were Canada Geese with 1,735 and Horned Larks with 1,731. The large number of robins is not unusual, in fact the 10-year average has been 1,933.

Several species that did set record high counts this year were Redhead, 35; Ring-necked Duck, 45; Horned Lark; Winter Wren, five; and Swamp Sparrow, 31. There were only four species that we have been recording fairly regularly that were missed: Pied-billed Grebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Meadowlark and Pine Siskin.

The weather was much better than the previous day when it snowed all day but the count day started out with a bitter 8 degrees and only warmed to 28 that day with 3 inches of snow on the ground. It was fairly quiet with wind 5-7 mph out of the north.

The Christmas Bird Count is conducted each year within a two week period around Christmas and New Years. The results are tabulated and published on-line by the National Audubon Society at http://cbc.audubon.org. The record serves as a means of determining year to year or long term changes in bird populations.

The participants on the 2007 count included Jan and Roger Boyd, Bill Busby, Cal Cink, Becky and Danny McMillen, Barbara and Martin Pressgrove, and Bailie and Jeff Richards all of Baldwin; Gerry Parkinson of Lawrence; John Brockway of Ottawa; and John and Linda Zempel of Topeka.

"We invite you to join us next year," said Roger Boyd, bird club president.

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